The New Zealand Police today announced they have agreed to a compensation package with the family of Halatau Naitoko who was tragically killed on Auckland’s north western motorway in January 2009.
Mr Naitoko’s family will receive compensation of $100,000 for the hardship and suffering caused by the 17 year old accidental death. The family will also receive $25,000 towards their legal costs. This is in addition to a payment of $100,000 the family received shortly after Halatau’s death. In total the compensation package is $225,000.
‘Police deeply and sincerely regret the accidental shooting of Mr Naitoko”, Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham said. “For our officers, who dedicate their working lives to helping people, Halatau’s death was everything they were trying to prevent.”
“We offer once again our deepest sympathies to his family. They have conducted themselves with dignity and courage throughout this ordeal and we are truly sorry for their loss.
“The initial payment we made to Mr Naitoko’s family was kept confidential until the two parties agreed on a final settlement. It can now be disclosed as part of the overall compensation package.”
Mr Naitoko was killed when he was accidentally struck by a bullet as the Armed Offenders Squad apprehended Stephen McDonald on Auckland’s north western motorway on 23 January 2009.
Police had no option but to take action to stop Mr McDonald as he attempted to jump on a moving truck while aiming his gun at two officers.
Mr McDonald was injured and incapacitated but tragically Mr Naitoko, who was driving a van that was in the background of this moving incident, was hit by a bullet and killed.
“Police were dealing with a mobile, unpredictable, drug fuelled gunman who had threatened members of the public with a firearm and had fired at Police. There was a real threat to public safety”, Mr Boreham said. “To this day the staff involved remain devastated by Halatau Naitoko’s tragic death”.
In August 2011 Coroner Gordon Matenga concluded the shooting of Mr Naitoko was a tragic accident.
This finding was supported by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) who ruled that Police took appropriate and immediate action to subdue an offender whose objective was to evade arrest by any means.
Mr Boreham acknowledged that while both authorities concluded Mr Naitoko’s death was an accident Police made mistakes during the pursuit of Mr McDonald.
“We have made changes in line with the recommendations made by the Independent Police Conduct Authority”, Mr Boreham said.
“These steps will reduce the chances of another tragic accident occurring during an armed pursuit.”
Following the IPCA report several recommendations have been adopted include greater resourcing for the Armed Offenders Squad in Auckland, more training for communication centre staff and clarity on the role Police helicopters play during pursuits.
Mr Boreham paid tribute to the courage and leadership shown by Halatau’s mother Ivoni Fuimaono since her son’s death.
“Mrs Fuimaono is a woman of great standing within the South Auckland community both through her church and her work with youth programmes”, Mr Boreham said.
“She and her family have handled these tragic circumstances with great humility and dignity”.